Waited since the beginning of the season, the duel between Eteri Tutberidze’s prodigies finally happened at Europeans – and it’s the 15-year-old Alina Zagitova who leads, by 1.7 points, over the two-time World champion Evgenia Medvedeva. But the one who stole the show in Megasport arena, wearing her heart on her sleeve, was the mature, beautiful Carolina Kostner – and it’s precisely that matureness, her long life in the sport, alongside innate, genuine talent that led to performances like the one in Moscow. Skating to „Ne me quitte pas”, as sang by Celine Dion, Carolina offered a pure moment of grace – and she now sits in 3rd place after the ladies’ SP, scoring the best she’s ever scored: 78.30 points.
by Florentina Tone
Heading to the Kiss and Cry, a big smile on her face, the Italian surely heard that loud, distinctive cheer from the audience; someone screamed, with Russian accent: „Carolina, numero uno!”.
Not at all coincidental, that particular praise and display of affection was on everyone’s mind at the end of her skate in Moscow.
The emotions won’t go away just because you enter the 14th Europeans of your career – and Carolina Kostner was nervous, you could tell, while her name was being called by the announcer. She was the first to take the ice in the last group and she kept shaking her arms while gliding near the boards, as if she wanted to cast aside all doubts and insecurities.
„It is not easy skating first in the group. You don’t get to come off the ice and regroup, it’s like you are just thrown on the ice. I was repeating to myself like a mantra: you are ready, you are ready”.
And she was definitely ready, upping the technical content of her program at this point in the season and landing a triple Flip-triple Toe combination, followed by a triple Loop and double Axel. But it was the overall performance that kept you glued to your chair – because with Carolina it’s always about having the privilege to enter her world, her serene, magical world. One that she found it hard to leave herself at the end of the performance: she was still there, trying to find her way back to earth, while exiting from the final spin.
And then, feet on the ground, when ground had the colour of ice, she could savour the effect of her skate on people in Megasport arena.
And she sent a heart in the air.
She didn’t know it yet, but in a couple of minutes she’d receive the highest score of her career for a short program: 78.30 points; and this might be the best she’s ever skated, the best she’s ever been.
From the audience, someone shared on twitter: „Just watched Ms. Kostner’s beautiful SP and gave standing ovation next to Stéphane Lambiel and Deniss Vasiljevs”.
Carolina Kostner will share herself in the press conference later on: „As for my program, I am very happy. I felt grounded and serene, and I loved the authentic and genuine reaction of the audience”.
„In life you will encounter obstacles, and it’s not so much about what obstacles you encounter or if you fall down – it’s about how you get back up and how you keep on fighting and keep on walking your journey step by step. If I think back to last year’s European Championships, I skated in the 2nd group at 10:30 in the morning. Today I had the honor to take the ice with the best in the last group. I just kept thinking back about how far I’ve gone in just one year”.
„I feel lucky to be able to continue this journey and I will try my best. I have this vision of skating where you combine the technique with the feeling and the emotions. It’s not only the movement, but it’s about opening your heart. Opening your heart sometimes means also opening it to difficult emotions. If you want to feel joy, you have to feel the pain as well, and that’s sometimes not so easy – it takes courage, patience and determination to lay it down and skate it and feel it with your heart. The short story is I love figure skating”.
The future is now
Leading after the short program in her first Europeans – remember, she is only 15 – is Russia’s Alina Zagitova, who won every competition she entered this season, her first season in seniors: Lombardia Trophy, Cup of China, Internationaux de France, Grand Prix Final, Russian Nationals. And that’s an impressive résume already.
Her rise began last season, when – maximizing the base value of her programs by choosing some of the most difficult technical elements and placing them in the second half – Alina was the first competitor in junior ladies to achieve a total score above the 200 mark (207.43 points at the 2016-2017 JGP Final) and then went on winning the crown at Junior Worlds.
And so people expected impatiently her senior debut and her encounters, on competitive ice, with the two-time European and World Champion, her teammate Evgenia Medvedeva.
…and the first of those encounters happened only yesterday, in the ladies short program at 2018 Europeans – a broken foot kept Evgenia Medvedeva out of the Grand Prix Final and Russia’s National Championships.
The penultimate to take the ice in Moscow, out of 40 competitors, Alina Zagitova lived up to everyone’s expectations and delivered a flawless skate in Megasport arena, featuring an impressive triple Lutz-triple Loop combination, a triple Flip with arms aloft, a double Axel and incredible spins. All, to the crescendo of the music from the movie „Black Swan”.
And with that powerful, demanding music it’s always about who’s owning who – and Alina clearly owned the music and the character, setting a new personal best, 80.27 points, and becoming the overnight leader at Europeans.
„I think there is still room for improvement for me, but it was the best short program of the season. It’s my first Europeans, but I was able to calm down and I was able to show what I have worked on with my coaches. I am very pleased to finally have skated a clean short program. Since Russian Nationals I’ve been focusing on consistency in practice and on polishing all elements”.
Different kind of expectancies surrounded Carolina Kostner, Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva at these Europeans – and with Evgenia it was all about condition and state of mind after her injury. And, in a matter of minutes, we’d have this sorted out: the 18-year-old is still at her very best.
„Zhenia, davaaaai!”, someone from the audience screamed, and Zhenia, as she is affectionately named, waited for the music to start, eyes closed, a blanket of sweet quietness surrounding her.
She opened her short program to Chopin’s „Nocturne” with a level-four flying camel spin and intricate footwork before landing a confident triple Flip-triple Toe and a triple Loop. She stumbled a bit on the landing of the double Axel – still her nemesis at times – but overall that was a commanding performance in Moscow, scoring 78.57 points, the second of the day.
That might have not been perfect, we wrote on twitter at the time, but we’re thrilled to have her back in the arena. And the entire performance had this soothing, beautiful air – Chopin was such a fitting choice for Evgenia in the Olympic season.
Minutes later, in the mixed zone, she’ll look relieved and thankful: „I did not feel the injury, everything has healed. I was in a cast for three weeks. It was a removable cast so I had it maybe a little longer. I did feel a bit different [today] compared to Rostelecom Cup, for example: I was calmer. There are a lot of people that made it possible for me to get back on to the ice and I think I realized that it is the treasure of my life to be able to go out and skate”.
And „gratitude” might just be the perfect word to describe Evgenia in her third Europeans: „First of all I want to say thank you – thank you to everyone who has been with me throughout this difficult period. Everyone has put in effort for me to be here today. I want to thank my fans and coach for their help. It’s almost a miracle that I’ve recovered so quickly. I’m happy that I’m back. It feels like my sport, I’ve missed competing, and training. I’m just so happy to be here”.